COUNTY fans have grown used to seeing top Highland League stoppers turn out for their club and they may have another one on their hands in Dylan Maclean, writes Graeme Macleod.
The likes of Michael Rae, Jim Calder, John Campbell, Callum Donaldson and the recently-departed Calum Antell have thrilled the Station Park crowds in recent years and young Maclean showed he has the potential to be mentioned in the same breath if he can continue his development.
The young stopper made a string of impressive blocks during a 70-minute appearance against Premiership opponents, Inverness CT.
An even open period saw Nairn give as good as they got but it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal 11 minutes in. A neat, one-touch passing move saw Iain Vigurs teed up 10 yards from goal but the midfielder's low effort was kept out by a superb diving save from Dylan Maclean, who threw himself to his right to tip the ball around the post.
With 24 minutes on the clock, the impressive Liam Polworth fired in a low drive from 22 yards that was saved by the diving Maclean. The shot was too hot to hold for the County 'keeper but Glenn Main was on the scene first to mop up the danger at the expense of a corner.
Two minutes later, Iain Vigurs tried to side-foot the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards but he was denied by Maclean, who sprung up well to make the catch.
Nairn's first attempt at goal arrived on 27 minutes as Robbie Duncanson blasted a free kick from fully 30 yards towards the net but the ball drifted over the crossbar by a matter of inches.
Centre forward Alex Fisher rose above the County defence on 33 minutes to meet a free kick in from the left but he sent his header flashing past the near post.
It was more of the same after the break as ICT continued to control the proceedings but Maclean was proving a tough nut to crack and he did well to keep a hold of substitute Greg Tansey's powerful drive from 25 yards out.
The young goalkeeper was called into action two minutes later as he held on to David Raven's curling shot from the edge of the box after the full back had been teed up by Scott Boden.
A neat flick by Ross Naismith in front of the stand on the halfway line left David Raven in a spin and sent John Cameron scampering towards the box on 65 minutes. He tried to pick out Kenny McKenzie but the winger was fouled by Kevin McNaughton on the edge of the area. Despite Nairn appeals for a penalty, referee Ben Dempster awarded a free kick that Naismith fired into the wall.
It took something special to break the County resistance as the opening goal finally arrived with just 13 minutes to play. Scott Boden was given a split second to lift his head and curl a pinpoint effort over the outstretched hand of diving substitute goalkeeper Sam Maclean as the ball sailed into the top right hand corner from the left edge of the box.
The visitors added a second as Greg Tansey's header back across goal from the by-line on the right caught the back-pedalling Paul Macleod on the chest at the front post, sending the ball trickling past the wrong-footed Maclean and into the net.
Goal number three arrived with four minutes left when Jake Mulraney's pace took him past Paul Macleod to the by-line on the left and his low ball across the face of goal was turned home by Ali Sutherland.
County handed a debut to defender Craig Munro and a home bow to Jordan Macrae and the young striker almost marked it with a goal in the last minute when he was picked out by McKenzie's low ball in from the left but he sent his effort over the crossbar at the front post.
Nairn County - D. Maclean (S. Maclean 75), Skinner, Glenn Main, P. Macleod (Munro 89), Webb, C. Maclean, R. Naismith (Trialist B 89), Mackintosh (J. Maclean 89), Duncanson (Macrae 87), Cameron (Trialist A 70), McKenzie. Subs unused:
Inverness CT - Mackay (Esson 46), Horner (Trialist 46), Tremarco (Meekings 46), Warren (Raven 46), Brown (Gilchrist 46), Polworth (Tansey 46), Wilson (Maclennan 46), Draper (Boden 46), Fisher (Sutherland 46), Vigurs (Rennie 46), Robertson (Mulraney 46). Subs unused:
Referee - Ben Dempster